Have you ever wondered how an acclaimed Parisian pastry shop like Pain de Sucre makes their macarons? Granted, you might already know exactly how it’s done, if you’re in the habit of churning out 1800 of them a day yourself. For the rest of us, this twenty-four photo spread will serve as an eye-opener . . . and will likely be the first time you’ve ever seen a macaron machine. And today is merely Part I of the Pain de Sucre macaron extravaganza! This Thursday will feature even more photos in Part II, when the macarons get filled en-masse.
Before we dig in, let me just thank my acclaimed macaron cookbook author friend, Jill Colonna, for setting up this photo session for us. She and I had gone to Pain de Sucre one morning, when she struck up a conversation with co-owner, Didier Mathray, about how they craft their macs. Shortly after mentioning, “Well, I did write a macaron cookbook,” Monsieur Mathray was all like, “Oh, you’re the Jill Colonna. Well, in that case, you and Adam must come soon to see how we do it here.” So that’s exactly what we decided to do. Let’s get cookin’ . . .
Ok, so in the very top shot, you saw a mound of almond flour with Pain de Sucre’s secret blend of powdered food coloring resting atop it all. What type of macs will that produce? If you’re thinking “paprika chili macs”, you are totally wrong. If you’re thinking “caramel”, you are correct. But in order to make those at Pain de Sucre, you’re going to need more than just some egg whites; you need a cauldron of boiling sugar (above). For Pain de Sucre does not do their macarons with a French meringue. Oh, no, they are all about the Italian meringue here – which explains so much about the unique texture I know and love as Pain de Sucre’s trademark.
Behold! A stand mixer so large and powerful it could probably turn your little KitchenAid into a frothy meringue, too. I believe the bowl here contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion egg whites (note: that is a guesstimate)…
With the sugar at the perfect temp and the whites whipped into submission, it was time for them to join forces, ever so slowly. Never wanting to cook the egg whites, the sugar must be gradually added . . .
Then the food coloring goes in, while the bowl gets a little scraping. Always keep the sides of the bowl tidy, kids…
Thoroughly mixed, it looks like we have a huge glob of milk chocolate ganache. Yum. ..
Now we have to add our almond flour and play, “Let’s see how close I can get my fingers to the paddle without getting them broken.”…
Last but not least, we need to add about a litre of egg whites to mellow the mixture out into something suitable for piping, or in the case of Pain de Sucre, to make sure the texture is just right for the macaron machine.
Before it goes into the Macaronage 5000, it’s necessary to transfer it to another bowl and do a little hand mixing, to make sure everything is well-incorporated.
Halfway through the hand mixing, it’s important to look at your photographer and say, “Do you have any idea how painful it is to mix this much by hand? The sensation in my forearms is . . . searing!” Should you find yourself without an in-kitchen photographer, you can take a little break, before continuing. But if you are being filmed, continue on . . .
Start pouring all that brown goo into the hopper . . .
Get as much out as you possibly can. Ideally, the bowl should be so clean that not even one more mac could be made from the leftovers.
Now your machine is ready to go . . .
With a parchment lined sheet loaded, you press a series of buttons and let the magic happen . . .
They all come out exactly the same size and with a perfect nipple on top. Perky! . . .
As each sheet pops out the end, you need to stand there and beat the **** out of it against the counter. This is crucial not only for removing air pockets but for contributing to your eventual deafness. During this stage, Jill and I just looked at each other like, “Uh, shouldn’t you be wearing something -30db rated if you’re going to do that all day?!” It was loud.
Anyway, now is the time to quickly assess the quality of your counter slams . . .
Good slams? Then put this sheet of 60 on the rack . . .
Now quickly run around to the other side of the machine and feed a new sheet in. You’ll need clockwork timing and eagle-eyes to do it perfectly . . .
Once the machine has had its way with the macaron batter, you’ll need to pipe the last little bits out by hand. Jill and I were told that, until this past December, that’s how all the macarons were done. Can you imagine doing 1800 macarons by hand? The machine has revolutionized life in Pain de Sucre’s kitchen.
Slide the last of those puppies onto the rack . . .
And now you have a gigantic tower of macarons . . .
Into the oven they go. You can hear an excited “Weeeeeee!” with every sheet that slides in. Those little guys are happy to puff up and become official Pain de Sucre macarons.
Ok, so that’s the macaron-making process (minus the recipe I’ve been sworn to keep secret) – all the way up until the go into the oven. Thursday is when you get to see Part II of Pain de Sucre Macarons. We’ll be switching gears from the caramel macs to the Pistache-Griottes. Since they have two fillings, the shots are extra fun. And tomorrow be sure to tune in for a very special announcement If you live in/near Paris or happen to be in town on June 25th . . . well, you’ll see tomorrow.